Turning Archive 2005

Vega 2400 Lathe Review - Extremely Long w/Pics *LINK*

Mark Kauder, Phenix City, AL
>Review: Vega 2400 Bowl Lathe

Vega Enterprises Inc.
9585 Bruce Road ~ Decatur, Illinois 62526
217.963.2232 ~ 800.222.VEGA(8342) ~ FAX 217.963.2246

Back in August of 2004, I bought a Vega 2400 Bowl Lathe at the IWWF2004 show in Atlanta, GA. I had been searching (dreaming) of buying a bigger lathe for quite a while, and recently, I had been successful enough at selling some bowls that my wife and I agreed we could afford a new lathe. Like most turners, I had considered the larger Oneway, Stubby, Nichols (when they were still around), Woodfast, Delta, Jet and Powermatic lathes. As a bowl turner, I had also considered (lusted after) the VB36. The price tags had pretty much eliminated the Oneway, Stubby, Nichols and VB lathes. My price limit was in the neighborhood of $2500. The Delta Steel bed, Jet 1642, and Powermatic 3520 immediately came to the head of the pack. However, earlier in the year our club had purchased a Jet 1642 and for two weeks it was in my shop. At that time, I realized I would need a total shop revamp if I bought a lathe that long. I have a small 12’x24’ shop. The area of the shop allocated for the lathe was TOTALLY filled by the Jet and it was hard to get to the bench where my sharpening station is. I had turned briefly on a Vega2400 at the 2003 North Caroline Woodturning Symposium and I liked it. It had a small foot print, about the same as the average refrigerator. After some research talking to other Vega 2400 owners, and several calls to Vega Enterprises, I decided to buy one. I found that Vega was going to be attending the IWWF2004 show in Atlanta in August and they agreed to sell me the floor demo model. They gave me killer deal because I had some small part in helping them sell a warehouse full of spare VS motors that they had earlier in the year. Plus, I saved shipping by picking up at the show.

The lathe breaks down into three parts, the base, containing the motor, the tailstock, and the headstock/bed assembly. The latter being over 300 pounds, it took 3 strong men to get it out of the truck, around the various obstacles in my back yard, and up the ramp into my shop. Once there, it was assembled in about 30 minutes.

It fit almost exactly the same space as my old Jet Mini, which was mounted on a cabinet.

Here it is pictured with the tailstock on, though I turn most of the time with it off. That allows me to stand in front of the open end of a bowl.

After turning on it for nearly 5 months, I can report the following:

Vega is very nearly perfect for my shop and me. It comes equipped with a 2hp 220v Toshiba motor, Toshiba VFD controller on a movable arm (or pendant as Vega calls it). The motor is very strong, yet quiet. It is connected to the spindle by two rubber belts and 7 ½” pulleys that allow for two speed ranges:
0-425 & 0-2520.

I leave mine on the higher speed range because of the variety of bowl sized that I turn. I have yet to stall the motor, though I have slipped a belt. Speaking of the belts, the motor platform is raised and lowered – and thus the belts are tensioned – by a crank on the front of the lathe.


The Toshiba controller is mounted on a pendant that allows you to move the controller to almost any posion that is comfortable or safe. The controller itself contains several controls, only one of which is used day to day – the speed control knob. The other buttons are used to reprogram the various actions of the lathe – speed ramp-up, slow-down, etc. A manual is included to change these functions, but I have seen no reason to change any of them. The speed knob turns about Ύ of rotation, going from 0 rpm clockwise to full. The controller has a LED Digital readout that shows motor speed, not spindle speed. It goes from 0 – 1800 rpm, so since the top spindle speed on the pulley setting I use is 2550, if the digital readout is 900, I know my spindle speed is approx 1275 rpm. But like most turners, I pay little attention to the actual speed, and just adjust the speed to what seems right. The speed knob is very smooth, and easy to change just a few RPM at a time, unlike others that I have used that jump the RPM dramatically with just a small touch.

The other control on the pendant, is the Forward-Off-Reversed switch. It is an unassuming three-way toggle switch, mounted in a metal switchbox, not unlike a recepticle box you would find mounted in a wall with a light switch install in it. The switch is simple as can be - Up for forward, middle for off, and down for reverse. This is one of my minor complaints. With the switch in the forward position (UP), should you, in an emergency, need to quickly shut the lathe off, a quick slap at the switch, can – and usually does – move the switch past the Off position to the reverse position. In most situations, this is not much of a problem because the motor slows to a complete stop before slowly moving into reverse. However, I would like it better if it had a large red panic stop button.

The Spindle is 1.25”x8 like most large lathes, and is supported by three, large sealed (“for life”) bearings. The spindle is hollow, with a 3/8” hole running through it, so you can use your vacuum chuck, and use a knockout bar to remove anything in the #2 Morris Taper. The Headstock itself, it made from a 64 pound 8”x6” piece of rectangular structural steel tubing and is filled with 100 poounds of concrete. Vega claims that concrete is far superior in vibration dampening to most other material. I have no reason to doubt them, and it seems to work. The far end of the spindle is equipped with a large (maybe 8” dia) wooden handwheel. Simple but effective. It is attached to the spindle via a metal flange secured by an allen screw. I liked the fact that the handwheel is wood because: 1) I could make my own if I wanted to out of fancy wood, 2) It is warmer than a metal wheel, and 3) I was able to turn a taper in the end of it to fit my vacuum chuck.

The bed of the lathe is made from from two 3/4" steel plates for extreme stiffness, that are precision ground to be perfectly aligned and flat. It is wide too, at 13” wide and approximately 20” long – lots of room to lay tools, etc. The Banjo is very heavy at 17 pounds, and is made from two 1 Ό” square steel bars. It is so heavy and stiff, that for most light turning, I do not even lock it to the bed. The tool post is 1 Ό” diameter – no bending this thing, however, it does mean that some accessories (Coring tools, etc) would have to be modified to fit it. The tool rest is different. It is made out of a piece of L-shaped Steel. The upside of this is that it is thin, and makes it easy to get the support for your tools very close to work. The only down side, is that it does not have dead sound that a cast iron tool rest has, and kind of rings if the tool bounces at all. I thought this would bother me, but I was used to in within minutes of using it. It is not bad, just different. The tool rest is guaranteed against breakage. The banjo is tapped in two positions for the locking handle, allowing you to move the handle where it is out of the way for whatever turning you are doing. The banjo locks to the bed via a cam under the bed, connedted to a long t-handle the swings out of the way, no matter where you are standing. However, with this system, the banjo is not quickly removed, requiring unscrewing a large Allen bolt. The only problem that I have had with this whole system is that when my Oneway Bowl Steady is in place, it limits the positions I can put the tool rest. The banjo and the steady rest get in the way of each other. On long bed lathes, you have greater versatility with banjo placement. I am working on a design for the base of the steady rest that will eliminate this problem. The short bed also eliminates the ability to use a Jamieson style captured hollowing system. I have discussed constructing a 12”-15” bed extension with Vega to eliminate these problems. I will probably buy some parts from Vega and construct my own. I will keep you informed,

The base of the lathe is adjustable in height from 37” over 42” spindle height. In fact the lathe will go some higher than that, and with the help of a couple of wood blocks under the tubular, concrete filled legs, I have a spindle height of 49” without effecting stablility in the least. This is a good height for bowl turning and hollowing for me.

The tailstock is easily removed or replaced. I timed it the other day, and it took me 15 seconds to pick it up, and fasten it to the lathe. And I was not moving like some NASCAR pit crew. No tools are required. The tailstock is equipped with two tappered pins that mate with the lathe, and then the tailstock is secured with a large bolt on the end of a t-handle. Vega tells me that each tail stock is aligned perfectly with the spindle before final welding. The tapered pins and the bolt insure that alignment every time. With the tailstock in place, you can turn from 6” to 17” between centers. The tailstock spindle is a #2 MT, is self-ejecting, and has a total of 9” travel, about 6” of which are accomplished with a threaded shaft.

Standard equipment supplied with the lathe is:
4" Face Plate
Spur Center
Live Tailstock Center
12" Tool Rest
Spanner Wrench for the Spindle.

Random Thoughts about the Vega 2400:
1) Like most lathes these days, the 2400 come equipped with one of those steel mesh guards to go over the top of the lathe. And like most turners, it was the first thing to go.

2) While it only weighs about 500 lbs, the Vega’s weight is on a wider footprint than 500 lbs long bed lathes so, to me, I feels more stable. I have not felt the need to add more weight to the lathe.

3) Don't go by the specs on the Vega website - they are somewhat out of date. Even the pictures are out of date: current models have different controller, a much larger tool post, and does not show the handwheel.

4) Most people don’t know about the Vega – it is 100% American made – but they sell every one that they make. It is a small company, with great customer service. When you call to order a lathe, make a suggestion, or make a complaint, you are getting Randall McKinney, the #2 man there.

5) Minor (to me at least) issues:
a) No spindle lock - it has a long spanner wrench and that works just fine.
b) no indexing option - not ever an issue to this point, and I can make one if necessary.

6) Yes, if you use a captured hollowing tool, this is not the lathe for you. If you do tall hollow forms, this is not the lathe for you. My Segmented hollow forms are no more than 15" tall, and I use a Don Pencil armbrace hollower, and a Sorby Hollowmaster, and I am OK. However, I am considering building a bed extension.

7) I have heard the comment that it looks like it was made in someone's garage. I cannot argue with that statement. The welds are good, but not ground and filled, etc. The FWD/REV switch is housed in a steel electrical receptical box that you could buy at Lowes, but that helps keep the price down.

8) I have talked to Vega about some of the issues, and their stance is that once they start adding these features, they start driving up the price - out of the nitch that they are in. A $2500 - 26" no-frills bowl lathe.

Well, I know this has been long, but I thought I would try to make it complete.

I have no business connections with Vega, I am a hobbiest turner, working full time as a Network Computer Engineer.


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